Indian Barramundi Fishing

Sam Wadman
Articles / Indian Barramundi Fishing
Posted on: 2017-09-23 13:17:32 +0530 (IST)

Indian Barramundi Fishing


Here I am fishing the surf for Barramundi - thanks to Scott for this super photo


With 2012 being a generally  bunkum year for angling in the UK for a number of reasons, mostly the blinking weather, it was with great delight that I planned my third visit to the Indian sub-continent with my old buddy Scott Richardson for another fishing adventure. There's not much that can beat the feeling of leaving the cold British winter behind and jetting off to warmer climes with a bag full of tackle, a tube full of rods and a heart full of hope and anticipation.


We have learnt an awful lot from our previous visits and each trip had enabled us to streamline the gear that we take with us. Fortunately this time we were travelling with Air Indi, as they have a very generous baggage allowance for an angler of 48 kg's of baggage plus a rod tube. There must be an Angler on the board of governors there. Most of the airlines allow only a little over 20 kg's. It has to be said, the majority of our luggage was full of lures- rubber, plastic, metal, fur and feathers-you name it and we had it!

All the gear I took to keep me going for 6 weeks


Scott flew out Six weeks ahead of me and had arranged a van, a couple of sea kayaks and rented a small hut on the west coast that was to be our fishing HQ for the duration of the trip. The addition of the Van gave us independence, flexibility and security which was missing  in our previous trips where we had relied on public transport or scooters. I flew in to Goa Dabolim airport and took the hour taxi ride to the coast where I met with Scott and two other friends - Markus and Jochen. They are from Austria and Germany respectively; we often fish with them whilst out there. From here began Six weeks of travel, adventure, fishing and excitement.

Have Kayaks will travel!


On arrival I heard from Scott and the guys that the fishing had been good so far with them having been out targeting the inshore species such as the Barramundi, Trevally, Grouper, Flathead, Snappers and the like. One thing that really excites me about fishing in India is the light tackle sport with the Barramundi. These fish are nothing short of incredible. You can catch them on dead-bait, lures, fly and live-baits. I simply couldn't wait to get amongst them. My favourite technique is fishing for them over clean ground on light spinning tackle, as it is here that these powerhouse fish best get to show off their fighting prowess. Think screaming reels, leaps, long runs, head shaking, tail-walking and acrobatics-you get the picture! These fish have it all. 


My first night of fishing was with Scott at a spot where we had caught some exceptional barramundi on our previous trips.  It has to be said that I was keen as mustard but a little rusty and I hooked into two huge fish and dropped them both. One straightened the hook on my lure as in my over excited state, I played it a little too hard and the other just dropped off for no apparent reason! I was disappointed but at least the fish were there and that was the important thing. It was a little reminder of the power of these fish and the fact that I needed to upgrade my hooks to a stronger, heavier gauge - A top tip if you ever find yourself pursuing these powerful creatures. The quest for monster barramundi had begun.

Our humble abode - HQ and fishing base for the trip


My tackle for clean ground when fishing over sand is a sturdy spinning rod in the 20-80g range paired with a solid 3000/4000 size spinning reel, loaded with 20lb braid. I love the non stretch qualities of this line for my lure fishing and the low diameter for casting ability. The set up is finished off with 3 to 4 feet of 80 lb mono or fluorocarbon rubbing leader joined to the braid. The lure is then either tied directly to the leader or by use of a sturdy clip.


When fishing from the rocky shoreline and headlands for these fish then the tackle needs to be stepped up to give you a good chance of landing any fish you may be lucky enough to hook. A good sturdy rod with a solid   backbone to give the fish some stick and keep them from cutting the line on the rocks is essential. Pair this with a 6000/7000 size reel, 80lb braid and the 80lb leader and you have a chance of getting the bigger fish out. Without it you can kiss goodbye to your expensive lures and braid and even worse, leave the hooks in a fish, which no one wants.


Successful lures are small to medium size weighted shads or similar soft plastics on tough jig heads. It's all about the vibration given off by their little tails and a good silhouette that triggers the strike. Hard lures can be equally successful; we've found that Rapalas, Bombers, Yozuris and the like do the business. Lure colour is an interesting topic, everyone has their own ideas on this one but I have always gone for natural, white or silver colours. Match the hatch-as it is said.

Markus flicking a few lures around at sunrise


As I mentioned earlier, to stand the best chance of landing any barramundi you hook, it's always advisable to upgrade the hooks on your lures. The jaw pressure of even a small barramundi is enough to open up most modest treble hooks if given the chance. The best option, incase you dont want to lose your fish to an open hook, is to replace them with 5 x strength trebles paired with solid split rings from reliable manufacturers such as OwnerMustadVMCGamakatsu. It only takes two minutes to replace hooks, using good quality split ring pliers. Many weighted soft lures have a built in hook too but it is best to cut these off and tie on a 5 x treble using heavy Braid and super gluing all the knots too.

Hard Lures


By far the best time to be fishing for Barramundi is in low light conditions or after dark. What always amazes me is that the fish manage to find these small lures after dark in such a huge volume of water. It is without doubt that they 'feel' the lure as much as, if not more, than they see it. It takes a leap of faith to fish lures in the dark but it really works. If you've never tried it before then give it a go, you won't look back. Without doubt, after dark and during periods of changing light (sunrise/sunset) are the best times to be flicking a lure about, wherever in the world you are fishing. The fish feel safe and will come closer to shore within easy casting range.


Soft Plastic Lures



The barramundi are masters of the ambush attack, using structures, currents and the environment to their advantage. You need to think like a fish. Anywhere that offers a good vantage point from which to make an attack, structure that it can hide behind and areas where currents converge, split, rip and eddy are all good places to be working a lure. These fish want be in the best spots from which to ambush their prey whilst at the same time expending as little energy as possible. With a little experience and watercraft it's not too hard to work out where the fish may be laying up on your mark. After dark they can be right under your feet, so it's important to work the rock ledges and margins. Running the lure right to your feet is also a must, occasionally they will hit the lure right on the surface under the rod tip, be prepared and make sure to set that hook well - their mouths are very hard and tough.


Our Quarry.....The Beautiful Barramundi. My first proper lump of this trip.



Whilst lure fishing at night, it’s important to remain focused, fish well and treat every cast like it could be 'the one'. It's easy to lose your concentration after fishing for several hours without a bite and this can be detrimental. The fish can move through at any stage of the tide and it's important to be ready for them when they do. One bite is all you need to suddenly change everything. It's a question of confidence; as long as you have a lure in the water then you have a chance. You just have to keep the faith and believe. These tactics really do work; it's just a question of putting in the time. A little research goes a long way. Get out there and fish your marks at different times and states of the tide, then you can really build up a true picture of what the fish are up to and where they are. By keeping a record of your findings, patterns will start to emerge over time and this is the secret to cracking the Barra fishing on any chosen mark. It's time and experience that really count and to my mind is a big part of the satisfaction; it's not just about catching the fish.


The take from a Barramundi can be surprisingly gentle, especially when using soft plastics. These plastic lures are allowed to sink before commencing the retrieve, which puts the bait down around the level the fish are laying up at. As the lure passes over the fish, it simply sucks it in which is felt as a gentle bite on the rod tip as a slight vibration or a sensation that the lure has just stopped dead. That's the time when you set the hook.

With hard lures the fish slam into them a little harder. The fish will rise through the water column from below, hitting the lure and then turn back for the bottom, creating a much more savage bite at the rod tip. Sometimes in these instances the fish will hook itself but it's always wise to drive those hooks home to create a good hook hold.

Scott scans the water for signs of fish - another day, another deserted beach! 



I had set myself the target of catching a few Barra over the magical 20lb mark and after my initial over-eagerness it wasn't long before things improved. I soon settled in to the fishing and honed my skills with the lures, it always takes a few days to get in to it on a trip like this and so it was. After a couple of lovely fish, whilst out in the kayak though, I was all tuned up and ready to go!

My first fish of the 2013 trip, a fantastic blubberlip snapper caught out in the kayak.


I soon came across my first Barramundi on a deserted beach we had discovered with some good rocky outcrops onto clean sand. It was a lovely spot and I'd already had a couple of small Trevally on a metal lure before noticing a drop off into deeper water just off the beach that the waves had churned out. I proceeded to wade out and work this area with a small X-Rap lure. Just after the sun had dipped below the horizon I had a good thump just as it came across the edge and it was fish on! The Barramundi leapt twice in front of me, shaking its head angrily, trying to rid it of the hooks before screaming off on a couple of lovely runs. After a few minutes the fish tired and I guided it through the tumbling surf towards me, it was a cracker probably just shy of 10lbs. I was delighted with my first Barra of the trip and went to slip my fingers under its gill cover and lift it from the water when the fish suddenly kicked and the unthinkable happened-before I knew it, I had a treble hook through the back of my hand and a fish thrashing wildly on the other end of the lure. NOT GOOD!

The double puncture wound on the back of my hand after we got back to camp, it's difficult to appreciate the swelling from this angle but it was not pretty!



At this point, I realised I was in serious trouble as blood poured from the wound but managed somehow to grab the fish and hold it tight to my chest, to prevent it from thrashing around anymore and possibly tearing the hook from the back of my hand. I waded back to shore and using my other hand fortunately managed to shake the fish from the remaining hook. The fish swam away and I was left with a lure firmly embedded in the back of my hand which had now swollen up due to the trauma. Scott was far, far away and could not hear my calls for help due to the wind so I was left with the nasty task of trying to squeeze the barb down with my pliers and then slipping the hook back through my flesh with my left hand, which was not easy! After a little tugging, pulling and a little tearing the hook finally popped out. PHEW! After washing it in the salt water for a few minutes the bleeding stopped and I fished on, managing to sneak out one smaller barramundi before darkness came and we headed back to camp. After giving it a thorough clean with antiseptic and leaving it to breathe, the wound healed very quickly and cleanly. We were a long way from any medical help or quality care so I was indeed very lucky on this occasion. It could have been a very different story had the hook punctured a vein, artery or tendon!


Markus with a stunning, large fish



There were several other notable sessions for barramundi during the trip, one of which was whilst fishing a shallow water boulder field on a making tide after dark. There were rocks and ambush points everywhere on this mark which was right under some towering cliffs. A better spot for a barramundi, I have not seen, it was perfect. It didn't take long before I got my first hit, the fish dived for the boulders but by holding the rod high and keeping the clutch tight I won the battle. After a spirited fight the culprit, a mangrove jack of 5 to 6 lbs came ashore to be quickly unhooked and released, not the target species but a beautiful fish none the less. As I fished on and worked my shallow diving lure I had a few taps every now and then to heighten the tension. It wasn't long before I got slammed good and proper though, right at my feet. It was so sudden that it made me jump out of my skin and I nearly fell off my perch. The fish tore off out to sea and just kept on going, then nothing....the line fell limp and I retrieved my lure with one hook slightly bent-done again! The strength of these fish is incredible.


I fished on happy in the knowledge that there were a few fish about and it wasn't long before another took a fancy to my lure. By preventing the fish from really getting its head down I was able to play it out under the rod tip and prevented it from going to ground, finding the sanctuary it was after. This was a lovely little barramundi of 7 to 8 lbs. Followed up by another before tiredness got the better of us and the bed started calling. This is the quality of fishing that can be easily found if you're prepared to put in the time and get a little off the beaten track; very rarely did we see another angler.

Markus, Scott and I chill by the fire



It got to the last week of the trip and I still hadn't come across a big 20lb + Barramundi yet. To be honest I was starting to get a little worried but it's never over till the fat lady sings! With this in mind, Scott and I planned a couple of sessions to a location that we knew can produce the goods on given days and intended to camp out and fish the mark thoroughly. Everything was right, the tide phase was perfect, peaking just after midnight and the water clarity and wind were spot on giving us ideal conditions. Things could not have been better. Optimism was high.

Scott with a cracking barra on the fly after dark



On the first night Scott managed to get into a beast of a fish, easily over the 20lb mark as the tide pushed. I looked on in awe as he beached the beautiful specimen; we took a couple of trophy shots and then slipped her back from whence she came. It didn't happen for me that night on the Barra front but I did managed to take a huge flathead by Indian standards, a bigger specimen I have not heard of anywhere across the sub-continent. I was delighted with this prehistoric specimen and was able to tick it off my list having never caught one before; I think it'll be a while before I better that one...what a clonker!


A huge flathead caught whilst chasing the barramundi



Time was running out fast for me and with only a few days remaining for fishing I was fired up; big time! We were in the right place, conditions were perfect and with Scott's success the previous night, confidence was high. We approached the water the next day again- full of optimism, waded out up to our knees and started flicking some lures around. I was working a small soft plastic shad hoping for the best, things were slow at first but we plugged away at it, they had to be there. As I ran the lure round in some current about 2 hours in to the session, I could feel the little tail pulsating through the braid and rod when it just suddenly stopped with a thump. I smoothly swept the rod back to solid resistance and the fish just stayed there, I felt it shake its head a couple of times and then it went steaming off. The reel screamed as the powerful fish surged off out to sea, it just went and went! Eventually the run stopped and I was able to pump her back towards me for a few seconds, the fish did not appreciate this though and made that obvious by tearing off on a second huge run. This light tackle sport is just incredible, it doesn't get much better! 


After the second run, the fish seemed tired and I was able to pump it back to within 40 yards of the shore into shallower water. It was at this point that it panicked and made several leaps in the moonlight trying to shed the hook and tail-walked all over the place. I could feel the line getting caught behind the fish's gill plates and fins as it jumped and feared the worst. Fortunately, everything held and this final surge of action left the fish exhausted. It ended up wallowing about some 10 yards out for a minute or 2 before I managed to guide it into Scott's capable hands. He slid the huge fish up the beach and she was mine. Probably well over 20lbs and easily the biggest I have ever caught, I was delighted. What a buzz!

We quickly unhooked the fish and I held her in the water to recover whilst Scott got the camera ready, after a couple of shots and a little more nursing in the edge she kicked her tail and was back off to the murky depths to fight another day. What a fish and what a fight....we were delighted. This really wrapped the trip up nicely for me.

The biggest Barramundi I have caught to date - What a fish!



After all the excitement, we fished on. I could have gone home totally happy at that point but carried on casting anyhow. Lady Luck was smiling down on me that evening as within 20 minutes I had another take and latched in to another fish which scrapped just as hard as the first but without the leaps or tail-walking. It was another 20lb'er too, I was elated. What a session, 2 fish over 20lb within a half hour period of Incredible fishing. Indian Angling at its best.

20 minutes later, along comes this one...what a brace of fish!



As mentioned, It's not just the Barramundi that fall to these lure based tactics after dark, one can expect by-catch mostly in the form of Mangrove Jacks, Groupers, Trevally, Snappers and flatheads. These fish are largely left unmolested along the rocky shores of the west coast. It's difficult to net these areas due to the rocks and strong currents which is an advantage for the intrepid angler.


Just a word of caution, take care when rock hopping after dark as it can be treacherous under foot, always remember to carry a good torch and a mobile phone. Keep an eye on the tide too, be sure that it won’t creep around behind you and leave you stranded or at worse in deep water. Keep an eye out for rogue waves at all times too. I had a lucky escape once whilst fishing the Atlantic coast in Wales, nearly got washed off a rock into deep, swirling waters. Take care, be safe and happy fishing!